And, for the moment, Greinke is the best pitcher in baseball. On the last Friday in April, he stares down Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, who leads the league in hitting. Nobody is on base. Nobody has scored a run off Greinke all year. Nobody has scored off Greinke since Sept. 13 of last year, seven starts ago. Greinke begins his windup and turns his back to Cabrera, and then his right arm comes forward and fires his fastball, which pops the glove. It's all out, 94 mph, fully unleashed.
80-mph slider, belt high, a called strike
Zack Greinke always had a talent for looking bored. Everyone noticed it. Scouts, in fact, wrote those words, "He looks bored," on their reports again and again. During interviews Greinke would stare at the ceiling, as if the answers could be divined from the tiles. Before games Greinke would sit in front of his locker and look off into the distance.
"Zack," a teammate once said to him, "I'm having this charity golf tournament. Was hoping you might play in it."
Greinke paused, as if considering the request. Then he said, "No. Why would I do that?"
The teammate shrugged, laughed, walked off. Just Zack being Zack.
Before he made his debut in Oakland in May 2004, Greinke put on his warmup jacket and walked out of the clubhouse. Where was he going? Nobody knew. "He's probably sleeping somewhere," his teammate Brian Anderson said.
"I don't mean this as a knock on the kid," says former Royals general manager Allard Baird, "but it truly is just a game to him. You talk about poise and those type of things, but with Zack from the very start, he was just going out there and playing the game. And whether he won the game or lost the game, he really wasn't any different."
Maybe it was because Greinke never wanted to pitch. He got a kick out of hitting home runs—one of his favorite stories involves a home run derby he won in high school. Greinke only became a fulltime pitcher during his senior year at Apopka (Fla.) High because he was too good not to become one. That season he had an 0.55 ERA, struck out 118 and walked eight, and he was named the Gatorade national high school player of the year.
"Yeah, I could dominate right away," he says, not to brag but to explain. His first full year in the minor leagues, he went 15--4 with a 1.93 ERA and a 112-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was the best pitching prospect in baseball. A year later he was the Royals' pitcher of the year.